The Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) Horse Trials in Landrum, SC is pleased to announce local event rider and trainer Beth Perkins as the new cross-country course designer. She takes over for Greg Schlappi, who after several years as the designer and builder at the beloved Area III event, is focusing on building customized portable jumps and designing for private schooling facilities.
Perkins set the track at the April 16, 2022 competition and has big plans for the course’s future. FENCE currently runs Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels. With international course builder Dylan Barry, coming on board in the fall, Perkins looks forward to developing a Modified cross-country course as well as an Intro course.
“FENCE is very community-oriented. We want to make it so it’s popular with people that live in the area, whatever their needs are,” Perkins said.
The primary challenge of the venue is its substantial terrain; the course features a long uphill climb. After the October event, known as the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club "Morris the Horse" Trials, Perkins plans to move some earth to soften some of the ridges and remove old structures to make room for new jumps.
“It’s really about improving the galloping and being able to have a level place you can put jumps. Everything is a little bit on a sidehill,” Perkins said. “It’s a difficult piece of property to work on, but everyone loves going to FENCE. It’s also kind of different from any other place. You have to be able to handle some terrain.”
Competitors got to experience Perkins’ design of the course for the first time earlier this month. John Michael Durr, of Rutherfordton, N.C., brought five horses as well as several students to the April event. Durr, a USEF “S” Eventing Course Designer himself, noted several updates that stood out on the cross-country.
“Over the past few runnings, they have modernized the track in a horse-friendly way, forgoing the dated natural creek crossings and creating a track that makes the natural terrain work in the course’s favor. This year the fresh eyes of a new designer gave this track a fresh feel with super questions set across the level,” Durr said.
“The course was perfectly decorated. This not only makes the course look beautiful, but the placement of each flower, hay bale, and pot makes the fences jump well and keeps horses safe. FENCE has also added many new frangible fences built by Greg Schlappi; their investment in the safety of riders is so appreciated by me, my students, and every rider.”
Susan Thomas is also a longtime visitor to FENCE. She and her large group of horses and students traveled from Athens, Ga. to compete at the April event.
“I was beyond excited by some of the changes that had been made. The organizing committee for this competition is extremely dedicated to providing a better experience each and every time,” Thomas said. “The cross-country courses have been dramatically improved and updated, and while they still have the charm of a traditional FENCE course in the foothills, the combinations and jump placement were some of the best designs I have seen at this event. Beth Perkins set some extremely positive and confidence-inspiring courses that built up as they went on. All of my horses came off of the cross-country feeling more educated and confident. As a competitor, this is the best result I could ask for!”
FENCE ran its first USEA recognized horse trials in 1991. It is not only a popular equestrian facility but cherished by the community as a protected green space where people of all ages can hike, ride, and enjoy nature through numerous educational and outreach programs. It is much beloved by the community and has been a stalwart of the Area III calendar for decades.
FENCE organizer Molly Hooper Bull has many fond memories of the venue:
“I first rode at FENCE as a teenager many years ago, and I love going back now as their organizer. It’s such a special place with beautiful views from the top of the course and I love the local community and restaurants. They are working hard to bring more competitors to their facility and really bend over backward to accommodate the needs and wants of their riders,” Hooper Bull said.
Durr echoes this sentiment saying, “I am so grateful to have such a wonderful event right here in my backyard, and I have been attending the events at FENCE as much as I can in the six years since moving to the Tryon area. I have so much appreciation for the dedication of the groups that put on the horse trials. Over the years I have watched them work hard to improve and modernize a long-running event with deep roots in the Tryon community.”
Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels.
What happens to a dream deferred? Steve and Vicki Sukup wouldn’t know, because frankly, that’s not their style. Steve is the president and CEO of family-owned Sukup Manufacturing, and also happens to be the co-owner of another Iowan delight—Mo Donegal, the Belmont Stakes winner who was dressed in white carnations earlier this month. Steve and his wife Vicki also have another equine connection who is pretty well known in the eventing world: Elisa Wallace.
Anyone who has ever gone from driving a runaround to taking the wheel of a Ferrari can testify that that there are cars—and then, there are cars. Ben Noonan had a similar epiphany on horseback when he went from riding a trail horse over cross-country fences to riding an eventer. “I didn’t really understand why everyone liked eventing so much,” said Ben, now 18 and on the cusp of a professional career, “until I was riding an event horse.”
From the tadpole division at the local starter horse trials through the CCI5* at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day, equestrian competition brings people together. At every level, horse shows can expand community and foster growth for the sport of eventing.